Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes Folklore

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Spider Webs

My life in appalachia - Spiderwebs
Seems this time of the year I see spider webs everywhere I look-especially around the eaves of the house and along the porches (I won’t mention the ones in the corners of my living room).

I’m pretty sure I’ve shared my fear of spiders with you in the past-thankfully I out grew it just in time to try and convince Chatter she doesn’t need to be afraid of them either.

I grew up hearing spider webs were used to stop the flow of blood from a cut in the old days. While surfing around this morning, I discovered spiders themselves were being used to ward off fevers as early as 1681-you can read about it here.

The book Folk Medicine in Southern Appalachia written by Anthony Cavender offers these spider web related remedies:

  • to cure asthma swallow spider webs that have been rolled into a ball
  • put spider webs over an injury to stop bleeding
  • stuff spider webs into a cavity to stop the pain

Needless to say-I’ve not tried any of the remedies myself. However I can see worthiness in each of them-not in a scientific proof manner-but in a mind over matter way.

Anyone who’s ever sat up with a child who was sick-tossing and turning from pain, fever, or both-knows the desperation you feel as you try to ease their sickness. For most of us-morning brings a great hope-a great hope that we can take our sick one to a local doctor’s office and let them diagnose and prescribe something to relieve the pain, fever, and worry. But the folks who used spider webs as medicinal remedies-they didn’t have that hope of modern medicine. So they made their own hope and passed it along to the next generation in the form of home remedies. To be sure some of the remedies worked-while others were down right cooky-but all of them gave a hope-a feeling of “we’ve done all we can do and things will surely turn out o.k.”


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    lynn legge
    October 23, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    i will kindly give all of you all of my spiders and their webs.. i dont like them.. at all…. hate even seeing pictures of them.. ughhh but as others have said. im so glad that we have more modern times and remedies..
    hope you have a wonderful week
    big ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    October 23, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    I like spiders and have used cobwebs to stop bleeding. It works really well and forms a kind of instant scab that stays put. Re ‘cob’, I’m pretty sure its an old word (from England) for spider..

  • Reply
    October 23, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    Great story!!!
    We had several writing spiders (like Charlotte) around outside our house this summer. I became quite intriqued with their diligent work and even named the closest one to the house out on the side porch “Charlotte”.
    A couple of weeks ago, she built her little egg sack for us and left, I believe to die if I understand spider’s ways correctly. We took her little egg sack and tucked it safely in the corner of a closed bird feeder so it will be snug until next spring, when I hope we will see even more “Charlottes” around.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    October 23, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    When my youngest daughter was about 10, we got into my truck
    one morning to come to work and
    she got my attention soon as we
    turned the vehicle around. There
    was a huge spider just below her
    left shoulder. It was as big as
    a silver dollar, and hairy, and
    I just reacted. I squashed that
    booger with my left hand before
    he had time to move. She asked
    me where did it come from and
    was so calm, I said probably was
    under the seat. Soon as we got to
    the shop she grabbed a can of
    spray, just about emptying it under our seats…Ken

  • Reply
    October 23, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    When I was four, a little boy in town died after being bitten by a brown recluse spider. I remember being very sternly warned to avoid all spiders and get one of the folks if I saw one. Dad showed me a photo of one the newspaper had printed, it made quite an impression on my young mind.
    All these decades later (and after living many years in the country), my terror has somewhat diminished; I have reached a point where I’m okay with spiders in the garden, but any one of them who ventures into my house has bought himself a one-way ticket!
    I have heard the one about using spider webs to stop bleeding. On the flip side, I’ve also heard about boiling daddy long legs to make a poison. I don’t think I’ll try either!

  • Reply
    October 23, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    So you fear spiders too! I have been fearing them a little extra this past couple of weeks… I have been working in the garage, moving stuff and opening old boxes… and all the while I am praying that a recluse spider won’t jump at me. I have seen their bites on people, and my merchandiser nearly died from one! Whew! They are SCARY!
    I have heard we eat an average of 6 spider a year while sleeping-GAH!!
    And I agree, people will try anything for a cure- So if spider webs are avaible… use the web- What doesn’t kill you, will heal you? lol!

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    October 23, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    I think a spider web is actively used by a spider and a cob web has been abandoned. They are left to gather dust. Not sure why it’s called a COB web…. ?

  • Reply
    October 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Sandy-now thats a good question! Maybe someone will answer it for us : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph.D.
    October 23, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Tipper: I will agree the spiders and their webs are beautiful this time of year. However, when I forgot and walked across my front porch and right through a giant web – that was hanging from the roof – I went into a hizzy fit! My friend, who was standing near by and watching me, thought I had lost IT! She did NOT know there was a spider web causing my wild behavior! I knew the web was there and I was trying to perserve it till Halloween! Oh well! There will probably be another built by Halloween!
    Keep those scary stories coming!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    October 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I was never afraid of spiders but it wasn’t until Bet came along before I learned to really appreciate them and notice them more.

  • Reply
    October 23, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    I am NOT a fan of spiders…but I know they are good to have around, and their webs are beautiful first thing in the morning! (except for the one that is consistently built in the doorway that we walk through to go to the barn in the dark!)
    I can imagine that spider webs could be helpful in stopping bleeding, like a bandage…but am very thankful we don’t have to rely on using this method!

  • Reply
    October 23, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I know that spiders make “spider webs”, but what makes a “cob web”? a minister friend of ours asked that question in church one day. Something to ponder. Sandy

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 23, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    I’m not fond of spiders either, in fact one bit me on the neck a few days ago as I was out walking.
    Rest assured he will never bite anyone again. lol
    The webs are troublesome both inside and outside,but I guess that’s just part of life. At my house the spider webs have an interesting way of mixing with the dust and cat hair….again, that is just life at my house.
    When a mother used spider webs to ease her child I expect it worked. Perhaps not so much by the power of the spider web but by the power of a mothers love.
    Never, ever underestimate the power of a mother’s love. We know, don’t we, Tipper.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    October 23, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Spiders are our friends, though I avoid the Black Widows and Brown Recluse.I just returned from Deer hunting on the coast of NC and was rewarded with a massive spider web near my stand, it was more than six feet across and full of mosquitos, I just wish the spider had invited more of his kin as I was assaulted by many of the mosquitos he missed, some of which sounded like a Chinook Chopper when they found my ear canals and felt like not to distant relatives of the sabre tooth tiger when they decided to feast upon my blood. Until one has tried sitting motionless in the swamps of the flatlands you can’t truly appreciate spider webs and bats and wish they were more plentiful. The enemy of my enemy is my friend!

  • Reply
    October 23, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    I can understand why they might build webs under the eaves or even in the corners of rooms, but why do they construct webs in the cupboard under the sink or behind the wardrobe – they must be supremely optimistic to expect flies to venture to those places. But even without anything to eat they still seem to persist – surely we should love and admire such qualities.

  • Reply
    Debby Brown
    October 23, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Spiders are much respected in the old Cherokee ways, as it is believed the tiny water spider brought fire to the animals so that there would be light. So you often see spider designs in their artwork and jewelry. On thinking about the old ways of healing, the main thought was, “it if worked, it worked. If it didn’t , it didn’t.” Like someone else posted, you just did all you could do with no doctors and that was all that was within your power to do.

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    October 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    I hate spider webs. When I run into one, I can feel the spider on me and it scares me to death. Thanks for the remedies, never heard of them but I’m sure they probably work The old people used a lot of stuff back then, just wish I had learned more and listened more.. Thanks and hope you have a nice Sunday..Susie

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    October 23, 2011 at 10:33 am

    When walking backcountry trails, spider webs are mixed blessings. If you are continually running into them, then you know you’re the first person to walk that way in a while – which is always a comfort in my view.
    But on the other hand, if you’re continually running into them, you are….well, continually pulling the web off your face and out of your hair. BTW, being follicly-challenged does have its benefits;-)
    Re: B. Ruth’s comment about boxwoods – they are one of the most common non-native plants still found at old home sites in the mountains. In some cases, they are well over three-quarters of a century old. In dozens of cases when I’ve been bushwhacking through the woods in search of home sites that folks were forced to leave when the Great Smoky Mt. National Park was created, it is boxwoods that first called a friendly greeting – “you’re getting warmer…lookie over here.”

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    October 23, 2011 at 10:10 am

    I have never been fond of spiders, but when my sons were born I had to be brave and not show my fear. UGH! I do find spider webs fasinating though and love to photograph them.

  • Reply
    Robin Naneix
    October 23, 2011 at 9:43 am

    As a child I just loved to see the webs of writing spiders…my cherokee grandmother told us to not to let the spider see our teeth or she would write our name and something not so good would happen.

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    October 23, 2011 at 9:41 am

    I have decided that I like spiders. Not crawling on me, but I never kill them when I see them in the house. I take them outside or just ignore them. My hubby and I were admiring their beautiful webs just this morning. Happily, they were outside in the tall weeds where we don’t mow. I have heard about using spider webs to stop bleeding, but not the other ones.
    Thanks, Tipper, for your spooky October blog. I love this month and it’s going by way too fast!

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    October 23, 2011 at 9:39 am

    In our household when I was growing up, the home remedy was tried first. Unless, it was obvious that the illness, broken bone, cut, etc. was beyond the butterfly bandage, stretch wrap, or salt water gargle…LOL
    I remember my Dad telling of some Cherokee Indian folklore pertaining to like the spider webs laid on a cut or scrape to stop the bleeding or if the skin was scraped off, placing a web over the bare spot to stop the burning and oozing of the skin…I do believe this one!
    Those old round tunnel webs in all those boxwoods in NC would make great bandages…and just the smell of the boxwood built into the web should cure stuff! Don’t get me wrong, the smell of boxwood is like the smell of home…Boxwoods are now a very popular shrub of all varieties and hybrids…seems that folks that left the mountains wanted a boxwood of their own…LOL
    You are right about hope in anytype of remedy and help to give a loved one…Doctors were far and few between if there was one at all within a hundred miles..
    Thanks Tipper, Now then tell the truth…Do you still check your winter boots just to make sure a creepy spider hasn’t taken up residence over the Summer? I do, I absolutely cannot stand spiders and check all the time…we have those big wolf spiders and other ones since the woods are practically in the living room! LOL

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 23, 2011 at 9:38 am

    You know, spiders, snakes, bugs and a vast number of other creepy crawley things don’t know that we have dominion over this planet. We squish,squash,smash and smear them and they keep coming back. And they bring all their relatives. We might as well give up and give it over to them ’cause they will get us all in the end.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 23, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I think the use of spiders web to stop bleeding is still used today. the rest I am not so sure about. Thanks for the link to fold medicine. One of my interests.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    October 23, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Tipper–Were you aware of the fact that you are apparently a recovering aracnophobe? If not, you have confessed as much in today’s blog.
    Like you, we are plagued by spiders as they flee indoors from the coming hard times of winter. I can spray, knock down cobwebs, and the like in an ongoing fashion, but it doesn’t seem to do much good.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    October 23, 2011 at 8:47 am

    so this makes me even more thankful that we have doctors and drug stores. eeekkkk on treating myself with anything from spiders. i get hysterical when i walk through a web thinking what made it might be on me.

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    October 23, 2011 at 8:41 am

    Lots of spider webs here too. Wonder if it is a sign of the winter to come !

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